Cyntoia Brown To Get New Hearing After Support From Kim Kardashian, LeBron James

"It is hard to get government to admit they are wrong.”

Cyntoia Brown was 16 years old when she was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Now, she may be getting a second chance.

The Nashville woman who attracted the celebrity support of Kim Kardashian, LeBron James and Rihanna has been granted a clemency hearing. Brown was convicted of murdering a man she alleges bought her for sex, and said she had been trafficked and abused before defending herself against him. Her clemency hearing has been set for May 23, The New York Times reported. 


"While Cyntoia's clemency application is still in process, we will not be making any further public comments," her lawyer Charles Bone told the paper. 

Brown has already served 13 years in prison since being convicted in 2006. She had been living in a motel with a gang member who raped her, Bone told various news outlets last year. One night, Brown was taken to the home of a 43-year-old man. She said in court that she saw him reaching under his bed, thought he was going for a gun, and shot him. Then, she grabbed money in the home and fled in her pickup truck.

Advocates for Brown to be granted clemency or pardoned maintain that she was the real victim of sex trafficking and that she was an abused 16-year-old girl defending herself. Others, though, claim that the case is more complex than her advocates are letting on. Prosecutors argued in court that the man may have been asleep when she shot him. Court records say that she told police officers investigating the crime that she was not a prostitute. A jury convicted Brown after prosecutors pointed to her criminal juvenile record and history of drug use. 

"It is up to the governor to decide the process after we make our recommendation," Melissa McDonald, a spokeswoman for the state Board of Probation and Parole, told The New York Times. "The governor may act on it or choose not to act."

Hundreds of thousands of people signed a MoveOn petition to free her. Civil rights advocates have focused less on the details of Brown's case and more on how common it is to give harsh sentences to minors. The Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that mandatory life sentences violated the Constitution's Eighth Amendment, prohibiting "cruel and unusual punishment," which Brown's lawyers have long hoped could lead to a reduced sentence or a new trial. Others have pointed to the fact that Brown has been a "model inmate," taking classes while in prison and earning her associate degree. 

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam is in his final year of office, but has never granted a clemency petition, according to The Tennessean

"I would like to tell you that I think the odds are good," Jeremy Faison, a Republican state representative who has advocated for her release, told The New York Times. But "it is hard to get government to admit they are wrong."

Cover image via Jamie Lamor Thompson / Tinseltown/


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